State of the Nation: Tennis

March 22, 2011

For those of you who aren’t perpetually linked in to the world of tennis via a plethora of fancy tools that your parents call “hi-tech” and you call “my life, dammit”, you may not have had the same last several weeks as the rest of us, watching a little piece of yellow fuzz being hit back and forth by exceptional characters clad in various fashions showcasing specific examples of the amazing strength of the human body. Such shenanigans were going on in the state of California, in a little-known place just off Palm Springs, called Indian Wells.

Indian Wells is supposedly an oldies resort, where tennis courts and golf courses stretch on for mile after green mile, overlooked by the oh-so-purdy snow-capped mountains in the background. As players converge on this little spot of the California desert in the beginning of March for the first Masters Tournament of the season, it’s all about seeing just who’s held up since the last time the boys and girls got together in Melbourne: Will the up-and-comers (hi, Dolgy, Bernie, Milos, yeah you) live up to the hype? Is Novak Djokovic really on fire? Can Roger Federer cash in his superannuation yet? Does Caro really DESERVE the Number One ranking? (Yawn.) And, more importantly: How fat is Fernando Verdasco? Does Jada need a haircut for those cute blonde curls? Are all Serbian fans really that awesome? Will John Isner EVER get the girl?

The questions of tennis fans never cease, and we tend to have the important stuff covered: Food, fashions, children, celebrity friends, rumoured relationships, bromances with other sports, how men look with their shirts off. Tennis journalists, on the other hand, and dabblers in the sport we like to call “casual fans”, all have just one question, constantly, and damn it does get boring:

OMG, So, Like, Do you think, like, Roger Federer, isn’t he, just the BEST EVER? *gush* Followed by: How about that Nadal dude? What’s wrong with Andy Murray?

And lately, if you get just the right sort of tennis fan: “What’s up with Djokovic? He won the Australian Open, hey?”

And the zinger: “So are Federer and Nadal over?”

I love reading responses to this question because everyone pretends to know and no-one really knows and the fun part is, we’ll never know, until it happens, and THAT’S WHY WE LOVE THIS SPORT SO MUCH.

We love sport BECAUSE it’s unpredictable. Because there is no way of knowing what’s going to happen next. Because tennis, of all glorious wonderful sports, is so wondrous precisely because you can be staring three match points in the face at 5-4 in the 2nd set only to have it turned around to face ANOTHER match point in the tie-break to TURN IT ALL AROUND and win the goddamn match in the third set and then WIN THE TOURNAMENT. Because when your friend texts you to find out what time you’ll be done watching the tennis and you say “I don’t know” it’s because, You really don’t bloody know.

And that’s why it’s awesome.

We don’t know if Nole will end the year number one, or Rafa, or even (please not) Roger. We don’t know if Nole’s luck will snap, or he’ll finish Miami with the hard-court-major-trifecta (Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami) and get the longest streak ever, or take over Number One by riding through clay season.

Or if Rafa will join a soccer team tomorrow and Roger opens a day-care center and leave the rankings open slather for the rest of the top 10. Andy Murray could win the next fourteen slams after this, and everyone will laugh hysterically at the hiccup of the first few slam finals he was in.

I’m happy to say that the Indian Wells results were true to life, in my humble, stream-watching-incessantly-tweeting opinion. I *do* think Caroline Wozniacki deserves the Number One spot, and I’m glad she proved it. I *do* believe Novak Djokovic is on an unbelievable hot streak and the better player of the big three – as he so proved to us this weekend. Having those two as our champions this weekend says something about the state of the nation in sport – and having two kids who are both pretty awesome, as far as kind, generous, funny (ok, only Nole, but Caro does give good tweet when Jisner is around), good-looking ambassadors to a sport that needs a bit of marketing help – is a total plus. As for what happens next? Who the hell knows. But I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.

THIS SPORT IS THE BESTEST, YOU GUYS.

Because no matter what happens tomorrow, I know I’ll be sitting somewhere in the world – whether in a hot and sweaty bar in Thailand, on a laptop in my apartment in Brooklyn, in an Irish pub in Spain, or courtside at a Grand Slam – and waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.

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On Top Of The World

March 22, 2011

Yesterday, Novak Djokovic proved he’s on top of the world – and, without a doubt to most – the best tennis player in the world right now. He did what we love to see, taking out Federer and Nadal in the same tournament, and extended his winning streak to 18-0 in the season – that’s 20 if you add in some fun times on a packed arena in his home town, Belgrade last year. He’ll get on the wikipedia page for tennis match streaks when he hits 26 – so, Miami, anyone?

Today he showed his domination by going – where else? – but the top of the world. Rather, the top of some pretty meadows and hills, but dammit, it took guts. And only with the confidence you’d have being Novak Djokovic right now would you actually attempt such a thing.

Though, looking at the cables attached, I’m thinking it’d be a similar experience to hangliding or paragliding. Which, as someone who has skydived one awesome time, doesn’t seem to be *that* big a deal. Yup, that’s me asserting my street cred for you, right now.

This is why my sport is so much better than yours. In case I haven’t made that point about nineteen million times over the last year and a bit of blogging.

Oh tennis.


Matte or Dewy?

March 18, 2011

This video is wonderful for many reasons, including the view of Indian Wells, a tournament that is growing on me to the extent I’m considering planning a nice little tennis holiday next year this time. It’s also got a Hi from Kei, and if you look ruhlly ruhlly closely at 3.08, a pretty lady in a ponytail who may or may not be Ana Ivanovic warming up.

How much would you give to be the makeup artist so artfully patting gel in Delpo’s spikey ‘do…. Or spongeing Tomas with what we can only assume would be foundation of the dewy type. I’d recommend a liquid-to-powder formula, personally.


Doubles Heaven

March 14, 2011

Rafa’s given us the lowdown on why Indian Wells is such a doubles treat, aka Olympic Practice Ground:

Q. What do you think about the fact that you’ve won this tournament in doubles and the Bryans have not?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am better than them. (Laughter.)
That’s not the case, no? So the thing is probably I have the best partner of the world, yeah. I have a fantastic partner. Marc, he has amazing talent, and when we play together, we have a lot of fun.
You know, I would love to play more tournaments doubles, but for me is impossible for the calendar and everything. Is too much.
But when I have the chance, I play. I played this year in Doha. I normally do in this tournament because is a long tournament and I have a few days in a row that there is a lot of – with the super-tiebreak helps a little bit to the players, but can have more chances to keep helping the players to play more and more doubles.
Because I think if the best players of the world play doubles, is a very good fun for the crowd, and for us, too, because we play a little bit more relaxed. At the same time, we practice, you know. If we have more facilities, is easier to practice playing doubles and is better practice playing doubles than practice only on the practice courts.


Olympics Practice

March 12, 2011

Has anyone else looked at the Mens dubs draw for Indian Wells and noticed a scent of something slightly Davis-Cuppy and highly Londoney?

Looks like all the boys have gotten together with their countrymen for what looks to me like a serious Olympics practice time. Seriously, 15 out of 32 teams are all patriotic and homeboyish.

I mean, even Fed is doing it with his mate Stanley, and we know they only do that when there’s a chunky piece of gold necklace on the line.

Spain has about seventeen viable teams, though the only to win a title this year were Tommy Robredo and Granola Bar. Rafa is back with Marc Lopez, provider of doubles titles. Nico and Ferru have teamed up, Montanes is with GGL, and Fernando Verdasco is – not with his usual boytoy bestie Feli Lopez, but Marrero. Seriously? There goes the Davis Cup practiceness.

Other partnerships? Let’s go. Team GB has the Muzza Bruzzas; and Team America has Quizner and the Brybros. Boring.

The Polish mafia are together as always with Frysternberg and Matkowski, and old Israeli chaverim Yoni and Andy have reunited. Julian Benneteau is missing his DC partner Llodra, who’s ignored the theme and stuck with Ziki, but he’s teamed up with Gasquet instead for some Frenchie fun. Cilic and Karlovic are putting every umpire’s tongue to the test, and there’s even a Brasilian team I have honestly never heard of – Soares and Melo? Finally, the Indian Express are still on the Team Reunited Tour, Pico is Argey Bargeying it up with Chela, and the best part – we get the King and Queen of Karaoke Awesomeness, Nole and Troicki.

Lots of bromance, lots of besties, and lots of patriotism in the air. Tastes like a World Cup but I see five rings in all sorts of pretty primary colours.

LONDON 2012, BABYPIES.


The Thunder from Down Under

March 10, 2011

Qualies at Indian Wells finished up this evening and what do you know – we have some very familiar names on the list.

I mean, obviously Flavio Cipolla had to qualify – when does he not? The kid is like a qualify-and-lose-in-the-first-round machine.  The Americans have gone all out and enriched their home-town arsenal, with Donald Young, Ryan Sweeting, Alex Bogomolov Jr, Mike Russel and Tim Smyczek all ready and able to lose in the first round while spectators clutch their hot dogs and cans of Bud (blatant straight-up stereotyping, admission).

But wait, who else is coming through from qualifying hell, girding their loins and shaking off the dust, striding across the grassy knolls of Indian Wells with big muscles rippling, ready to take on the world with their Aussie brawn?

Look who’s playing Indian Wells main draw, biatches?

Marinko “Australian Number Two” Matosevic

Chris “Gooch” Guccione – Let us hope, finally, injury-free

Matthew Ebden, also known as one of Australia’s highest ranked players, higher than Tomic and anyone else whose song you want to sing.

Oh yes, speaking of Bernie? He’ll be there too. Along with Lleyton. Fun times ahead.

A few more Aussies played qualies and missed out, including Sam Groth and Greg Jones. Which makes me think someone’s been paying attention to Lleyton’s grumblings during the summer, where he basically asserted that young Aussie players aren’t doing enough to make it on the ATP Tour. The piece from The Australian describes the difference it can make to take a risk by qualifying for a main event rather than staying in a challenger, picking up guaranteed points. Looks like they’re finally doing something about it, and of this I am proud.

For the record, just so I’m not accused of forgetting my Commonwealth kinsmen, Rik de Voest of South Africa along with this past weekend’s Indian Davis Cup battlers Somdev Devvarmen and Rohan Bopanna are also through. Which is also perfectly lovely.

Now, get ’em, Aussies.


Can we ever be friends?

March 10, 2011

Sometimes your best friend breaks your heart.

Once.

Then twice.

But apparently, everything can be made nice again, clay-streaked tears aside, by teaming up in the California desert for a nice spot of doubles on a sunny March afternoon.

Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur, on your doubles court, tomorrow. And oh, what’s that? Why yes, they’re playing the Italian dream team, Frannie’s besties, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. Same ladies who may’ve dashed some Fed Cup hopes just a couple months ago. Oh, this feels bloodystreakyteary already.

Bring it, Fran. You owe me.


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